Gran Turismo Review
Gran Turismo [PSP]
Developer: Polyphony Digital
Release Date: October 1st, 2009
It’s been a long time since we first saw Gran Turismo for PSP—which was before the portable even launched. Back then, everyone was wary about how Sony would fare against Nintendo’s handheld domination, but the best-selling Gran Turismo was sure to aid in this uphill battle. Strangely, the project fell off the face of the earth after its unveiling. Many considered it vaporware/canceled, but the game suddenly raced back into the spotlight at this year’s E3, and only mere months before it was set to release. It was a surprise to say the least, and here we finally are with Gran Turismo for the PSP. Now the question: how does the acclaimed series hold up on a smaller venue?
GT has always been about pure driving. Sitting behind the wheel of just about any car, tuning it, and racing—all with amazing technical detail—that’s GT. Sadly, Gran Turismo PSP lacks a few aspects that made the series great. However, the experience hasn’t changed. This version has no shortage of content: every Gran Turismo 4 track and a staggering 800 cars, a bit of a bump from GT4′s total. The game’s visuals don’t have the fidelity of its PS2 cousin, but the amount of detail and content packed onto the UMD is nothing short of impressive.
What GT PSP is sorely missing is a career mode. There’s not much structure, which may drive some players up the wall. Several modes are offered, but nothing substantial. The main single player serves more like the series’ arcade mode. You pick a race type, car, track, and just race. You don’t participate in preset events, or win cars. You’re actually responsible for event setup, which comes in three flavors: time attack, standard race, and drift trial. Time attack is as it sounds, while the game pits like-cars against you in standard races. Drift trials are fun and a welcome addition, where your points for each corner are tallied after a lap, similar to the mode in Gran Turismo HD. Creating events is fine, but a non-existent career removes what makes most of the GT experience. You still earn money for completing events, but it’s only used to purchase new cars. There are no upgrade parts, etc. Tuning options are also limited, much like in GT5: Prologue, as they’re saved for only 30 cars that you assign to a favorites list. This may be acceptable for some players, but that number is sparse considering the sheer number of cars.
Outside of single player are driving challenges, which play much like previous GT’s license tests. You’re given a certain car, a section of a track to drive, and time goals to win bronze, silver or gold trophies. Don’t fret though; these races aren’t required play like in older games. However, they bring in cash quickly, and shouldn’t be ignored. Do well enough to win some golds and you’ll rake in a couple hundred-thousand credits in no time. These provide a healthy challenge and some much-needed structure, but the overall single player portion leaves things to be desired.
Another peculiar decision for this game was the car dealerships. You’re initially given a generous sum of money to pick a starting car, which is nice. It’s just odd that only four manufacturers offer models at any given time. When you race, days pass in-game. Every couple that come and go causes the set of four dealerships to change. It’s annoying to want a specific car, but not know when it will randomly pop up. Furthermore, even when a company appears, their entire line is not usually available, in which case you have to wait for it to reappear and pray they brought your prize along. The whole guessing game doesn’t sit very well with GT. There’s never a shortage of vehicles to buy thanks to the huge catalog, but since most were simply brought over from GT4, many recent models are absent, which is a let-down. The game does feature Bugatti and Lamborghini, a first for the series, but you’ll be hard-pressed to come across cars newer than 2005. Even some production cars only appear in their older concept forms, like the Audi R8. Since there was room for 800, I would have preferred that Polyphony tossed out the extra Skylines in favor of newer cars.
GT put the PSP’s connectivity functions to good use though. Cars can be traded or shared. Trades happen as you would expect: “I’ll trade you car X for your car Y.” Sharing, on the other hand, lets you send cars to other players without actually giving it up. This is a cool feature if your friend happens to acquire a vehicle you can’t seem to come by with the funny dealership setup. The most rare and collectible cars typically can’t be shared however. Also, when not car-swapping, a fun multiplayer is available. Online sadly isn’t supported, but GT PSP is really more accommodating for ad-hoc racing.
In professional mode, you can manipulate race settings to your heart’s content, but the game also has some interesting modes that consider racers of varying skill that aren’t typical in most franchises. Party races shuffle start times depending on each participant’s previous performance, so everyone has a chance. Additionally, there are more shuffle races where instead of time being toyed with, players are assigned random cars. Struggling drivers are given more prestigious vehicles, while the veterans are forced to deal with slower rides, helping to maintain an even playing field. These modes are a great way to ensure races stay fun no matter who’s playing.
No matter what mode you choose, every car drives like its real-life counterpart. GT’s excellent physics remain intact, playing as great as ever. The PSP hardware raises some small issues, but they’re fairly easy to cope with. Playing GT on the PS2 works smoother simply because of the pressure-sensitive buttons of the DualShock 2. On the PSP, control is purely digital, making it more difficult to finesse your car. With the more difficult-to-control vehicles, being able to vary the degree of braking and throttle is much-needed, but with the right touch this can be trumped on the PSP. Other than that, there really isn’t much better in terms of racing on the PSP outside of the new MotorStorm.
Technically, GT is an achievement for the PSP. It’s a masterpiece with the same meticulous attention to detail on each car the series is known for. They’re all recreated accurately from a texture and reflection standpoint, which look great, even on the Portable’s screen. Some new effects like sparks from hitting walls and other cars is a nice touch as well. The tracks are also brought over faithfully, with a new ad or two placed about. The track textures aren’t quite as smooth as the PS2′s GTs and some seams are visible here and there, but this can be overlooked given the overall excellence. Plus most of the time you’re driving too fast to really notice the under-defined grass texturing off to the side. Sound compliments all the cars as well, and even the tire squealing is more realistic. The soundtrack is forgettable, but the option to use custom MP3s stored on your PSP is a nice surprise; you just have to unlock it by completing driving challenges first.
At the end of it all, Gran Turismo is as impressive as you can get from a technical standpoint on PSP, and who expects anything less from the guys at Polyphony? There are tons of cars and plenty of tracks—more than most console racers even offer. Though an absent career mode and upgrade options are a serious blow to the game, it looks, sounds, and plays like Gran Turismo. It just doesn’t quite feel the same as the GT most fans know and love. You can still get a lot out of it as a supporter, but there is a gaping hole that would’ve made the game had it been filled. With that said, don’t totally write GT PSP off; it’s one of the best racing experiences on Sony’s capable handheld.
Overall (Not an average): 8.1/10
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